Dr Brad Poulson

February 20, 2024, by aczht

Navigating AI in Education and Business

The rise of AI signals a new and testing time for teaching in higher education and subsequently system adoption within business. Dr Brad Poulson, Professor of Operations Management and Information Systems at Nottingham University Business School, and Entrepreneur in Residence, reflects on how AI will be deployed and the dangers of ignoring its importance.

Organisations will get the ‘AI’ they deserve

It’s almost impossible to believe in this electronically and technically connected world that so many organisations still don’t understand the significance of ‘IT’, and more broadly ‘Information Systems’, and as a result make irrational decisions about how they are managed, used, and the organisational structures surrounding them.

I was recently asked by a friend who works for an IT recruiting business what advice I would give my twenty-one-year-old self, on working in the IT industry. Intrigued by this, my initial response was to declare that when I was twenty-one the IT industry was in its infancy and not really a ‘thing’ at the time. Given that technology has developed so quickly and comprehensively, many companies I work with today still behave largely as they did over forty years ago.

Who will spearhead AI adoption within a business?

We are in danger of thinking that technology adoption and understanding are more advanced than it actually is, and that learning is linear and additive, building on what’s gone before. Yet from my observations, and from a business perspective, the adoption of new technologies is often fragmented, with ever-changing developments that knock it off-course with unintended consequences. There are great swathes of businesses for whom IT is still a bewildering minefield through which they stumble along, hoping not to step on something that will explode in their faces.

I typically work with organisations at the intersection of Information Systems, Operations Management and Change Management. So, I’m less interested in the bits and bytes of technology, but more in the quest to support businesses and their objectives through its selection, introduction, management, and development. This is an area of less well-developed competencies and capabilities (especially for SMEs), which has been the focus of much of my research and writing over the years.

There are three emerging themes that I have identified:

  • The beliefs and behaviours of organisations influence and lead organisations to get the IT they deserve. This raises a genuine and recurring issue of organisations not taking responsibility for the technology they deploy, especially where that technology comes into direct contact with their customers or service users. It’s almost as if ‘blaming the computer’ in some way exonerates them from any obligation.
  • Busting the myth that organisations aren’t as unique as they think they are. I know from my research that organisations don’t deliberately set out to design and operate poor processes, I do however believe that most organisations are predestined to operate poor processes.
  • Process Smart – identifying those organisations and individuals that exhibit and practice good ‘Process Intelligence’. Here I found that organisations also display quite differing characteristics, cognitive traits, strengths and weaknesses, experiences and interests which has a significant impact on the success and approaches of any interventions. Even the most ‘Process Smart’ individuals would struggle to make an impact in organisations that exhibit little or no process intelligence.

Is AI potentially another of those land mines organisations will stumble around in fear of an explosion?

One thing is for sure, that in much the same way that organisations get the ‘IT’ they deserve, they will also get the AI they deserve. It’s unlikely to be a universal panacea, and it’s hard to see AI having a quick and positive influence on businesses that struggle with the technology that is already available to them today. Ironically, the success of AI will be dependent on the intelligence of the lifeforms it looks to replace.

About Dr Brad Poulson

Brad has over 40 years of experience working with blue-chip companies, holding leadership positions in strategy, Information Systems, and Operations Management. His consultancy experience spans Project and Programme Management, Change Management, and how IT can support businesses and their objectives through its selection, introduction, management, and development. He coaches business leaders turnaround under-performing businesses and works with IT teams to develop and implement Information Systems Strategies. Brad divides his time as a Professor, Non-Executive Director, and Executive Coach, and runs his own Management Consultancy Practice. He is an advisor to several charities and is a thought leader in Process Intelligence.

Find out more about the Digital Centre of Excellence

The Nottingham University Business School’s Digital Centre of Excellence has been designed to support integrating digital technology into existing and newly taught courses, aiming to prepare graduates for the cloud-based, data-driven and AI-wielding workplaces of the near future.

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